Differentiation Strategy: What Is It And How to Create One for Your Business - Peter Boolkah

To succeed as a business or brand, it’s crucial to offer a product or service that stands out from competitors. The key to a differentiation strategy is offering unique products or services and marketing them effectively. A good differentiation strategy increases sales by showing your market that your company has a unique solution to its problems.

This article will explain what a differentiation strategy is, how to develop one, and its benefits for your business.

What is a Differentiation Business Strategy?

A differentiation strategy helps businesses stand out by offering unique and distinct products compared to competitors. Its goal is to improve competitive advantage by identifying strengths, weaknesses, customer needs, and the value offered. Businesses can use two main approaches: broad differentiation and focused differentiation.

Broad differentiation strategy

A broad differentiation strategy involves creating a brand or business that stands out from competitors. This strategy targets a wide consumer base in the industry.

Focused differentiation strategy

A focused differentiation strategy involves adding unique features to a product or service catering to a specific market.

Differentiation Strategy - Peter Boolkah

Why Is Differentiation a Challenge for So Many Companies?

The reason why so many companies lack brand and product differentiation is sameness. Sameness is the combined effect of companies often struggling to stand out, offering similar products with little differentiation in branding and communication.

Their language is bland, products are generic, and marketing messages mirror their competitors. Visiting their websites reveals that they all seem to echo the same promises. Their strategies to distinguish themselves often fall short or are nonexistent.

4 Types of Differentiation Strategies

Besides the two mentioned strategies, broad and focused, you should also be aware of other specific differentiation strategies. Here they are:

1. Product differentiation

Product differentiation is a clear strategy in which consumers notice differences mainly through the product’s appearance. Companies aim to make their product designs stand out by focusing on unique features, performance, efficacy, and consumer opinions.

This approach is common in B2C markets, where companies direct their products to end-users, but it’s also used in B2B markets. An example is Coca-Cola, which has built a strong brand and a drink with a distinct taste, making it recognizable among numerous other cola drinks.

2. Service differentiation

Service differentiation is about serving customers in a unique way. Every company aims to serve customers well. What makes one stand out is how customer service has changed. Customers expect perfect service with no waiting. Several factors play a role in serving customers, including how orders are processed and the customer service approach.

McDonald’s is a great example of service differentiation. They serve customers the same way in every location, known for their “consistent quality.” Whether in Los Angeles or Berlin, their food tastes the same, and the presentation is identical.

3.  Reputation differentiation

Reputation differentiation involves using several strategies to create a respected brand image. It means innovating to stand out. To develop a unique brand image, a company needs to excel in product quality, customer service, and product performance.

For example, Google is a prime example of image differentiation. Its rebranding improves the experience for both users and advertisers.

4. Pricing differentiation

Price differentiation strategy, also known as price discrimination, means selling the same product at different prices. Companies do this to reach a wider market, setting prices based on what customers are willing to pay. This strategy helps companies enter more deeply into the market and increase their revenues.

For example, the world’s leading online marketplace, Amazon, changes its product prices based on competition and what customers can afford.

Advantages of Creating a Differentiation Strategy

Differentiation strategies offer advantages for carving out a unique niche in your industry. The benefits of a differentiation strategy include:

Reduced price competition

A differentiation strategy lets a company stand out without relying on lower prices. For instance, a candy company might improve the taste or use healthier ingredients to make its products unique. Even if competitors offer cheaper options, they can’t match the taste that customers seek from this specific candy company.

Unique qualities of a product

A differentiation strategy focuses on a product’s unique features. Your company can identify qualities your products have that competitors don’t. These features set your product apart. You can highlight these differences in your marketing strategy.

Larger profit margins

Differentiating products into higher quality can lead to bigger profit margins. For instance, targeting a market that pays more for superior quality or value can increase revenue even with fewer sales.

Consumer brand loyalty

Effective differentiation can lead to customer loyalty if a business keeps up the quality of its products. For instance, using a sports figure to market a brand can likely increase brand loyalty as it adds value to the brand.

No perceived substitutes

A successful differentiation strategy can make it seem like your product has no substitutes. This can give your business a market advantage, even when competing products exist because customers prefer not to switch. Companies aim to stand out by offering unique products that are often updated.

Developing a Differentiation Business Strategy

Developing a Differentiation Business Strategy

Businesses aiming for a broad or focused differentiation strategy must offer highly unique or distinctive products or services that add more value for the consumer. An organization can gain a competitive edge through differentiation for a product or across the company. Steps to create a differentiation strategy include:

1. Determine what you wish to establish your reputation for

You should know your business’s strengths. Assess what matters to you and where your business excels. This helps you offer a unique advantage to your customers. List the strengths and weaknesses of your brand or products.

2. Research your target audience

Research helps match your business offerings to what your customers want and need. It also guides you in choosing what makes your expertise stand out. For example, sending a survey to your customers can provide valuable insights into their preferences.

3. Develop your differentiators

This step helps identify unique features of your brand or products. Initially, differentiators might be broad, but writing them down and refining them into more specific categories can be helpful. Common differentiators include lower or higher price, image or reputation, relationship, service, product, and distribution methods.

4. Tell your story

Sharing your business’s unique story helps differentiate your products from competitors, as they likely don’t have a similar story. Review your mission, vision, and values to create a story that highlights what makes you different and attracts customers.

Use your company website’s bio section to share your story with your target market segment. Social media channels are great for ongoing conversations with your customers, allowing you to present your products and services in a more personal way.

5. Create a brand image

Execute your strategy and build a brand image through improved quality. Be creative and consider rebranding to attract new clients and customers in your target market.

Differentiation Strategy Examples

Here are five strategies famous companies used to stand out and increase their value:

  • They focused on ethical buying and ensured their products, like unique handmade items, remained pure.
  • They concentrated on their image, community, and high-quality, durable products that hold their value.
  • They innovated by hosting events, running blogs, and developing an app for daily tasks.
  • They improved fast-food service with high-quality ingredients.
  • They expanded their product and service limits, making their brand essential through ads and product placements.


What are some challenges of a differentiation strategy?

A key challenge of a differentiation strategy is the need for significant investment in innovation and customization. This means allocating more funds to R&D, marketing, quality control, and customer service.

What’s vertical product differentiation?

Vertical differentiation means products differ in quality and price. Unlike horizontal differentiation, where products are based on preference, vertically differentiated products are ranked by quality, and price reflects this. If priced the same, one product is considered “the best.” Examples include branded products versus generics and different car brands.

Why do companies use a focused differentiation strategy?

A focused differentiation strategy targets a specific customer market. It narrows down a broader audience to serve those with unique needs.

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